You may have heard recently that it will no longer be possible to backup WhatsApp chats. While that’s not entirely true, WhatsApp is making changes to how backups work, so if you want to keep your conversations safe, you’ll need to take a couple of proactive steps.
WhatsApp announced that backups of chats saved to Google Drive that haven’t been used in more than one year will be deleted starting Nov. 12, 2018. While that may sound like a bad deal, your WhatsApp messages won’t count against your Google Drive storage cap going forward.
WhatsApp will continue to automatically backup your messages if you already have it set up to do so, though, so your future messages will be safe.
That means you may need to take action to save old messages, but you might not like the idea of WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, sharing your private messages with Google, which also has a reputation for intrusive data practices.
We’re going to show you how to backup messages to your phone and Google Drive, restore messages, protect your old messages from deletion and give you alternatives to Google Drive for a more secure experience.
What Is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a popular messaging application used around the world. It sends messages over the internet, so they don’t count against your texting cap, which is handy if you’re not on an unlimited plan.
It also enables you to make phone and video calls, which means you could skip having a phone plan altogether if all your contacts use WhatsApp. You can share files up to 100MB with other contacts on WhatsApp, too, making it a versatile communication app.
The app has end-to-end encryption, which sounds good, but it is owned by Facebook, and we all know how much that company likes to meddle with your personal data. If you’re looking for more secure alternatives, check out our article on encrypting text messages.
Backing up WhatsApp
If you want to backup WhatsApp for the first time, open it and go to the menu, click “settings,” “chats,” then “chat backup.”
You’ll see a button that says, “back up.” Clicking on it will backup your messages. WhatsApp will try to save your backups to your SD card first if you have one. If you don’t, it will save messages to your hard drive. WhatsApp will automatically create backups at 2 a.m. every day.
If you’re using the app on an Android phone, you can have it save your messages to Google Drive. Note that WhatsApp does not use end-to-end encryption to transfer your files from your phone to Google Drive. If you want to learn more about the cloud storage service, check out our Google Drive review and our Google Drive guide.
To set up automatic Google Drive backups, you’ll have to log in to your Google account on your phone, have Google Play installed and have enough free space to create the backup.
Once you’ve done that, navigate to the same “chat backup” menu as before and select the button that says “back up to Google Drive.” You can set WhatsApp to backup to Google Drive when you hit the “back up” button or to automatically backup daily, weekly or monthly.
You can also choose to let WhatsApp backup your messages over WiFi and cellular or force it to do so over WiFi only.
Note that every new automatic backup to Google Drive overwrites the last one, so, if you mistakenly delete something, you need to restore your messages before the next backup replaces the one you need.
Restoring WhatsApp Messages
To restore your WhatsApp messages from a backup, you’ll have to uninstall and reinstall the app. After that, once you’ve opened it and verified your phone number, you’ll be prompted to restore your chats from Google Drive. All you have to do is hit the “restore” button that pops up.
WhatsApp also automatically saves the last seven days of backups to your phone. If you use an SD card, you can find them in a folder called “WhatsApp/databases.” If you don’t, you’ll find them in a folder with the same name in your internal storage.
WhatsApp backups use the following file names: msgstore-YYYY-MM-DD.1.db.crypt12. Identify the backup you want by the date, then change the filename to “msgstore.db.crypt12” by deleting the date information from the middle. That lets WhatsApp know you want to restore from that file.
The .crypt12 extension is the newest in a long series of file types WhatsApp has used. If you haven’t used the app in a while, there’s a chance you may still be using an older version. If that is the case, you might find the file is a .crypt11 or .crypt10. Don’t change it to .crypt12. Leave it as you find it or WhatsApp won’t be able to read it.
Once you’ve found and renamed the file, uninstall and reinstall WhatsApp and tap the “restore” button when it pops up.
Saving Old WhatsApp Messages
If you’ve been automatically backing up your messages with Google Drive, but you haven’t used the application in over a year as of Nov. 12, 2018, Google will delete your backup file. If you want to save it, you’ll need to do so manually.
First, log in to your Google account, then Google Drive. Navigate to your WhatsApp backup file, then right-click on it. Click on “make a copy.” A second version of the file will appear. You can move it to a new location in Google Drive to ensure it doesn’t get deleted or download it to your desktop by right-clicking and choosing “download.”
You can do the same using the Google Drive app on your phone.
Why You Should Use a Different Backup Service
The problem with saving your messages to your desktop is that they become prone to the same problems that all files on your computer experience. When your hard drive fails, they’re going to be gone forever.
You could use Google Drive to work around that, but then you’re opening your messages to scrutiny from Google. You could also lose quick access to your messages if you switch operating systems, since you can’t access your Google Drive files as easily on non-Android phones.
If you want the security and convenience of cloud storage with the peace of mind that comes from using a company that doesn’t read your data, we have a couple of suggestions. We’ve picked three of our best online backup providers that will make working with WhatsApp easiest.
IDrive is a great option for people who want to put their WhatsApp messages in cloud storage. You can backup unlimited devices with a single subscription, which means you can keep everything on your phone safe, as well as your desktop. You can get a free 5GB account with the company to try the service before committing to a monthly plan.
While IDrive isn’t the easiest cloud backup system to use, it makes up for it with a good price and great features, such as continuous backup and versioning, which lets you roll back files to a previous state. It also keeps up to 10 past versions of the files you’ve stored, making it more robust than WhatsApp’s local backups.
IDrive also encrypts files with AES 256-bit, which keeps them safe from prying eyes. If you want to learn more about IDrive, read our IDrive review.
Backblaze is another good option for backing up your WhatsApp files. The paid service comes with unlimited storage, so you’ll never run out of space, no matter how many files you backup. You can try it using the 15-day free trial. Backblaze only has one paid tier, which costs $5 per month, but you can save money by buying one or two-year plans.
That said, you only get backup for one device, so you’re out of luck if you want to backup your computer as well. You can learn more about the service in our BackBlaze review.
Our third pick for backing up your WhatsApp files is Acronis True Image. It has excellent Android and iOS apps, which makes it easy to backup files from your phone. It also includes a cloning tool that is useful for migrating files to a new smartphone.
Two notable features are Acronis Notary, which uses blockchain technology to ensure that your backups remain readable, and Active Protection, which scans your files for signs of ransomware.
You can test Acronis with a free 30-day trial. Plans start at $49.99 for one device. If you’re interested in learning more about it, our Acronis True Image review covers the service from top to bottom.
There are many quick and easy ways to backup and restore your WhatsApp data, but that doesn’t mean they’re equally safe. If you don’t want Facebook or Google to have unwarranted access to your private messages, it’s worth it to invest in a cloud backup system that will keep your data protected.
It may cost you a little bit more than you’d like, but the peace of mind you get from knowing your information is secure is a benefit that’s hard to price. Doubly so if you do business transactions or messaging through WhatsApp.
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If you have questions about backing up or restoring your WhatsApp messages, ask them in the comment section below. We’ll answer you and update the article, too. Thanks for reading.